Huge Hole Opens Up in Antarctica, and Scientists Aren't Sure Why

by Antonio Miles October 14, 2017, 0:33
Huge Hole Opens Up in Antarctica, and Scientists Aren't Sure Why

The hole measures some 30,000 square miles - almost the size of SC.

Scientists - including a team from the University of Toronto - have discovered a mysterious hole the size of Lake Superior opening up in Antartica.

Ice scientists aren't sure what's going on, but they're all talking about it.

The Southern Ocean has a fairly layered structure, and above the layer of warmer and salt water is a layer of cold and relatively fresh water.

"It looks like you just punched a hole in the ice", Kent Moore, a professor of physics at the University of Toronto, told Motherboard. A robotic float, which was sent there for transmitting data from the Weddell Sea surprisingly surfaced inside the polynya last month, stated a news release from the Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observations and Modeling project at Princeton.

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Forty years after the first observation of the polynia in the sea, the Weddell did not open, and now it is the second year in a row that has opened. With a bit of push from nature (ocean currents), the warmer water rises upwards melting the blankets of the surface ice.

The harsh winter in Antarctica makes it hard to find holes like this one, so it can be difficult to study them. "From global circulation, we know how much deep water should be formed, but the areas we know are forming water now just aren't forming enough". "While many climate models tend to produce such a large open ocean polynya, the feature was viewed more as a disruptive model glitch than a true phenomenon in the past", Torge Martin, a meteorologist and climate modeler at the Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany, said.

This new polynya appeared around September 9 and is hundreds of kilometers from the coast.

However, the recently discovered polynya is "deep in the ice pack", which is rather unusual, Moore said. "Through the hole in the ice heat escapes from the ocean, warming the atmosphere above but more so cooling the ocean underneath". The scientists are unable to predict what the hole is exactly because its existence in the thick layer of sea ice is totally weird.

Still, it's unclear how often the Weddell Polynya re-emerges, and how long it will linger now that it's opened back up.


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